In the final stages – An Exhibition Design thesis process review

Ifigenia Flores, Exhibition Design MA candidate

Two weeks. My thesis, a year-long project, is due in two weeks. But I’m freaking out more about the presentation that comes a few days later than the actual deadline. How do you explain the complexities of your topic and the reasoning behind all of your design choices in just fifteen minutes? I’ll probably trip on my way up to the stage and then black out at some point. Should I picture the audience naked?

The Frances and Armand Hammer Auditorium at the Corcoran (taken from the Corcoran event rentals webpage).

The Frances and Armand Hammer Auditorium at the Corcoran (taken from the Corcoran event rentals webpage).

Some details for you on my project: as a second-year student in the MA Exhibition Design program, I am required to develop the content and design for a conceptual exhibition on a topic of my choice. My thesis uses case studies of animal behavior to explain the theory of evolution. I chose to design a new building at the National Zoo to tell my story, which is meant to leave visitors with an understanding and sense of wonder at the evolutionary view of life.

Using the zoo as my site creates a connection between the informal learning opportunities visitors are offered there and the exhibition’s teaching points. The exhibition explores compelling accounts of the power of evolutionary processes to create the great variety of life on Earth. A living collection, digital media, interactives, fossils, and photographs will relay stories of social behavior, domestication, sex, navigation and migration, foraging and feeding behavior, and the relationships between different species.

Perspective rendering (still in progress) of a case with leafcutter ants.

My classmates and I will be presenting our work to a panel of guest critics and other professionals in the environmental graphic design and museum fields. The Corcoran auditorium, with its stadium seating, fluted columns, and dramatic lighting, is more than a little intimidating. But maybe I should take a cue from my own topic and focus on the bigger picture when it comes to the culmination of my graduate degree. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and feel ready to move on to the real world. My thesis advisor, Veronica Jackson, reassured me of this during a meeting yesterday when I mentioned my fear (terror) of public speaking. So when I walk up to that podium in a couple of weeks, hopefully my thoughts will turn from “just don’t trip” to her words of encouragement: “Being nervous means that you care about what you’re doing. Don’t think about the crowd; play your game.”

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